The sad death of Danny Fiszman on Wednesday casts a dark shroud on a week which history could define as crucial in the development of Arsenal Football Club. The man who has done more than most to put Arsenal into the business Premier League has left a legacy which includes a world class stadium and now it seems an owner who intends to carry on the traditions which make the club revered the world over.
But in another way it feels like the torch has been passed from one millionaire football fan to another, albeit from different continents. Fiszman has been hailed as a visionary director and a true gentleman in a warm statement from the club and those sentiments are similar to the platitudes handed out since Kroenke’s takeover on Monday.
Indeed, without Fiszman and his fellow directors, Arsenal may have not been in a position to sell to an American owner and maybe would not have a multi-million pound stadium and matchday revenues of upwards of £3million. Fiszman, a former diamond trader, joined the board in 1992 buying his original eight per cent stake from David Dein. But it was the Emirates Stadium which provoked disagreement between Dein and Fiszman with both men having very different ideas about how Arsenal should move on from Highbury.
Dein favoured a move to Wembley Stadium or to land near King’s Cross while Fiszman always urged fans and the board to consider the merits of land at Ashburton Grove. Fiszman won, Dein lost but his triumph didn’t end there as Fiszman ensured the cost of the stadium would not plunge Arsenal into catastrophic debt and that there would always be cash in the bank to be spent on the team. Meanwhile Dein disappeared from the board and Fiszman arguably took on the mantle of the club’s mover and shaker behind the scenes, a role made popular by Dein.
And when Stan Kroenke first appeared on the scene in 2007, Fiszman did not join in the public condemnation of the American and maybe did want ‘his kind’ here. Indeed Dein and Fiszman both backed Kroenke but again Dein lost out and this time paid with his seat on the board. Fiszman realised the benefits of more money into the club and welcomed the American both to the club and latterly onto the board.
His sale to the American looks to have been one of the last acts of Fiszman’s life before his death at the age of 66 due to cancer. Even in death it appears Fiszman had the best interests of Arsenal FC at heart and his contribution to the club should be honoured in some way. For if there was no Fiszman, there may not be the Arsenal we know today and to me there can be no finer tribute than that.
He is survived by a wife, a family and friends – may he rest in peace.